Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Spring Football Wrap-up
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: April 23, 2001
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Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic Quotes

Mackovic's spring practice evaluation:
"As I told the players, the spring game would not solidify a position. If someone didn't play well during the game, that would not automatically mean that a player was out of the picture. The spring game is simply part of the evaluation and the grading process. Right now, the coaches are grading the spring game, and they are also evaluating how everyone performed during every spring session. We generally see players move up after spring practice, rather than move down."

"Where we are right now, our pass blocking is not good enough to win games. It was important for us during the spring to put the players in the position to where they had to compete one on one. I thought that we let down outside, but we were playing with young players at tackle because (Darren) Safranek and Makoa (Freitas) had to sit out because they were recovering from injuries. It may not have been fun all of the time, but the young players on the line gained invaluable experience."

"Nothing can stay the same. Everything has to be better. The defense has shown that it is active, and that it gets to the football quickly. We did a good job of trying to challenge the defense as much as we could with our offense's passing attack. And, as the spring progressed, I was pleased with the way the defense was able to call up the adjustments."

"I mentioned before that I think our defense is like guerrilla warfare. The defense is created with the idea that 'here we are, but we're really not there.' This defense is different from most teams. The players spent a lot of time understanding what we're doing defensively. The defense still has to continue to evolve, and we have to continue to look at new things to do in the future. You cannot remain static with the defense."

On Arizona's offensive attack:
"I am pleased that we learned as much as we did in the amount of time we had. We put so much more on the players' shoulders to learn the new offense. Our quarterbacks had to find out what they could do and learn a whole new offense. They had to see what they could handle, and they really didn't have a lot of time."

"Today, defenses are so talented and so well-schooled that you must have a lot of offense. We have to expose our guys to different things, which we did. Now, we have to build on that for the fall. It doesn't mean that we won't move the ball, but it is going to take one complete year to feel comfortable with everything on offense."

"I call it a multiple pro offense because it is an offense that shows a team is more willing to throw the ball. The kind of offense where you run and throw only when you have to has gone by the wayside. In this conference, you see the pro-style attack from everyone."

On the quarterbacks:
"I would say that our quarterback development was average for the total group. Jason Johnson is clearly ahead of the others. He showed that he has been in a college football program, and that he has the experience and a real good understanding of how things work. After that, it is far more difficult to determine who is in the position to play at the No. 2 or No. 3 spots. If you look at the numbers, Cliff Watkins' numbers are likely to be second best."

"At the quarterback position, the biggest disadvantage was having six players. It was impossible to be totally fair to each one of them by giving them the same number of plays. In the limited amount of time that we had, we had to be sure that Jason Johnson was getting at least half of the work. We learned a lot about Jason, and he learned a lot about us and what we are trying to do."

On the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends:
"Our running backs didn't get to put on much of a show this spring because we had people hurt. And, we didn't have much of an offensive line to block for them. I think that there are some good players who will get their hands on the ball in the fall."

"Anthony Fulcher didn't get to practice very much during the last few weeks, but he looked very good early on. Clarence Farmer just loved being out there, and I am very pleased that he was out there every day and doing whatever he could to show that he is ready to keep his position."

"Fullback is not just a slugger position. Mike Detwiler, for example, has to be a runner, a receiver, and he has to be able to block."

"Wide receiver should be a position that we can count on. We dropped a lot of passes early in the spring, but we improved dramatically by the end. We didn't get to see Bobby Wade, but Andrae Thurman had a terrific spring, and Malosi Leonard and Brandon Marshall are veterans who understand the game. I am confident that we will be able to put receivers on the field who can help us, and it is a group that should not hold us back."

"We are going to use two tight ends quite a bit. We threw a lot of balls to the tight ends, more than they're used to, but we want to get the maximum out of that position. James Hugo doesn't drop any balls, and Peter Hansen, Justin Levasseur and Tyrone Brown really came on during practice. Hansen catches like a basketball player, and his size gives him an advantage over a lot of people."

"Peter Hansen is someone I really felt strongly about as having moved up. He did some good things during the spring. I was concerned that all he was doing was blocking kicks. But, he is becoming a total football player, and he has taken that on nicely. "Brandon Phillips was voted the most improved offensive player. He has such a bright future if he continues to work the way he has been working. He moved from the defense, and he came a long way during the spring from where he started."

On the Wildcat defense:
"Our defensive unit has no new players, and it really has the chance to be a better unit than it was a year ago. I think our defensive tackles need to become better pass rushers, but we have a lot of good run stoppers on the defensive front. Six defensive lineman are seniors out of the top eight to 10 players. One thing that I need to keep my eye on is that we are going to have a lot of holes to fill after the season, and recruiting defensive lineman will be a high priority on the recruiting list."

"Coach (Larry) Mac Duff has helped raise the intensity, and Marty Long has done a terrific job. I am pleased with the way that he works, and he really works those guys hard on the line."

"Ray Wells, who we recognized as the most improved defensive player, was someone we were looking at when the spring started, and he was a player the coaches knew something about. He really had a terrific spring, and he moved up significantly at the end."

"Michael Jolivette is for real. He's a good cover man, and he plays his position very well. It's great to see our receivers work hard to try to beat him. He has a good sense of the ball in the air and the receiver."

"Lance Briggs could start for any team in the country. He makes the tackles, and he flies to the ball. He is very good in man-to-man coverage, he's smart, and he is just that talented."

"We also recognized Eli Wnek for his hustle. He is rejuvenated for the chance to play on the defense again, and he is a significantly different player on defense. He shows ingenuity, and he does a great job of using his quickness and pass rush moves."

"Joe Siofele did a nice job during the spring. He never says anything. He just plays hard when he's on the field. Matt Molina also did a nice job, and he is someone that the coaching staff identified as having a good spring."

On the kicking game:
"I think that Sean Keel can be as good as anyone in the Pac-10. He has excellent timing, he understands himself, and he has a nice attitude about the game. He works to correct things, and he is very stable."

"Chris Palic was very inconsistent during the spring. As a senior, he should be someone that we can count on. He got a lot of push from (Ramey) Peru this spring, and they both have similar styles, which is interesting. It is more of a race at that position right now."

On incoming freshman quarterback Nic Costa: "I don't think there is any way that he could come in and be ready to start the season. There is so much to be learned, and we will be moving twice as fast in the fall as we were in the spring. It is highly unlikely that a freshman could do it. Costa is smart, and he learns, and we will just have to see how that plays out."

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